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English passive voice

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This article is about the passive voice in English. For the passive voice generally, including its
use in other languages, see Passive voice.
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The passive voice is a grammatical construction (a "voice") in which the subject of a sentence or
clause denotes the recipient of the action rather than the performer. In the English language, the
English passive voice is formed with an auxiliary verb (usually be or get) plus a participle
(usually the past participle) of a transitive verb. For example, "Caesar was stabbed by Brutus"
uses the passive voice. The subject denotes the individual (Caesar) affected by the action of the
verb. The counterpart to this in active voice is, "Brutus stabbed Caesar," in which the subject
denotes the doer, or agent, Brutus.
A sentence featuring the passive voice is sometimes called a passive sentence, and a verb phrase
in passive voice is sometimes called a passive verb.[1] English differs from languages in which
voice is indicated through a simple inflection, since the English passive is periphrastic,
composed of an auxiliary verb plus the past participle of the transitive verb.
Use of the English passive varies with writing style and field. Some style sheets discourage use
of passive voice,[2] while others encourage it.[3] Although some purveyors of usage advice,

including George Orwell (see Politics and the English Language, 1946) and William Strunk, Jr.
and E. B. White (see The Elements of Style, 1919) discourage the English passive, its usefulness
is recognized in cases where the theme (receiver of the action) is more important than the agent.


1 Identifying the English passive

2 Usage and style

2.1 Against the passive voice

2.2 For the passive voice

3 Passive constructions

3.1 Canonical passives

3.2 Promotion of other objects

3.3 Promotion of content clauses

3.4 Stative passives

3.5 Adjectival passives

3.6 Passives without active counterparts

3.7 Double passives

4 Misapplication of the term

5 See also

6 Notes

[edit] Identifying the English passive

In the following excerpt from the 18th-century United States Declaration of Independence
(1776), the bold text identifies passive verbs; italicized text identifies the one active verb (hold )
and the copulative verb are:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by
their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit
of Happiness.

In this case, the agent ("the Creator") of the passive construction can be identified with a by
phrase. When such a phrase is missing, the construction is an agentless passive. For example,
"Caesar was stabbed" is a perfectly grammatical full sentence, in a way that "stabbed Caesar"
and "Brutus stabbed" are not. Agentless passives are common in scientific writing, where the
agent may be irrelevant (e.g. "The mixture was heated to 300C").
It is not the case, however, that any sentence in which the agent is unmentioned or marginalised
is an example of the passive voice. Sentences like "There was a stabbing" or "A stabbing
occurred" are not passive. See "Misapplication of the term," below for more discussion of this

[edit] Usage and style

[edit] Against the passive voice
Many language critics and language-usage manuals discourage use of the passive voice.[4] This
advice is not usually found in older guides, emerging only in the first half of the twentieth
century.[5] In 1916, the British writer Arthur Quiller-Couch, criticized this grammatical voice:
Generally, use transitive verbs, that strike their object; and use them in the active voice,
eschewing the stationary passive, with its little auxiliary itss and wass, and its participles getting
into the light of your adjectives, which should be few. For, as a rough law, by his use of the
straight verb and by his economy of adjectives you can tell a mans style, if it be masculine or
neuter, writing or composition. [6]
Two years later, in 1918, in The Elements of Style Cornell University Professor of English
William Strunk, Jr. warned against excessive use of the passive voice:
The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive . . . This rule does not, of
course, mean that the writer should entirely discard the passive voice, which is frequently
convenient and sometimes necessary . . . The need to make a particular word the subject of the
sentence will often . . . determine which voice is to be used. The habitual use of the active voice,
however, makes for forcible writing. This is true not only in narrative concerned principally with
action, but in writing of any kind. Many a tame sentence of description or exposition can be
made lively and emphatic by substituting a transitive in the active voice for some such
perfunctory expression as there is or could be heard.[7]
In 1926, in the authoritative A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926), Henry W. Fowler
recommended against transforming active voice forms into passive voice forms, because doing
so sometimes leads to bad grammar, false idiom, or clumsiness.[8][9]
In 1946, in the essay "Politics and the English Language" (1946), George Orwell recommended
the active voice as an elementary principle of composition: "Never use the passive where you
can use the active."
The Columbia Guide to Standard American English (1993) stated that:

Active voice makes subjects do something (to something); passive voice permits subjects to have
something done to them (by someone or something). Some argue that active voice is more
muscular, direct, and succinct, passive voice flabbier, more indirect, and wordier. If you want
your words to seem impersonal, indirect, and noncommittal, passive is the choice, but otherwise,
active voice is almost invariably likely to prove more effective.[10]
Krista Ratcliffe notes the use of passives as an example of the role of grammar as "a link
between words and magical conjuring [...]: passive voice mystifies accountability by erasing who
or what performs an action [...].[11]

[edit] For the passive voice

Jan Freeman, a reporter for The Boston Globe, said that the passive voice does have its uses, and
that "all good writers use the passive voice".[12] For example, despite Orwell's advice to avoid the
passive, his "Politics and the English Language" (1946) employs passive voice for about 20
percent of its constructions. By comparison, a statistical study found about 13 percent passive
constructions in newspapers and magazines.[4]
Passive writing is not necessarily slack and indirect. Many famously vigorous passages use the
passive voice, as in these examples:

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the
crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. (King James Bible, Isaiah
Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York.
(Shakespeare's Richard III, I.1, ll. 12)

For of those to whom much is given, much is required. (John F. Kennedy's quotation of
Luke 12:48 in his address to the Massachusetts legislature, 9 January 1961.)[13]

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. (Winston
Churchill addressing the House of Commons, 20 August 1940.)

MerriamWebster's Dictionary of English Usage (1994) recommends the passive voice when
identifying the object (receiver) of the action is more important than the subject (agent), and
when the agent is unknown, unimportant, or not worth mentioning:

The child was struck by the car.

The store was robbed last night.

Plows should not be kept in the garage.

Kennedy was elected president.[4]

The principal criticism against the passive voice is its potential for evasion of responsibility. This
is because a passive clause may omit the agent even where it is important:

We had hoped to report on this problem, but the data were inadvertently deleted from our

(See weasel words.) However, the passive can also be used to emphasize the agent, and it may be
better for that role than the active voice, because the end of a clause is the ideal place to put
something you wish to emphasize:

Don't you see? The patient was murdered by his own doctor![15]

Similarly, the passive may be useful when modifying the agent, as heavily modified noun
phrases also tend to occur last in a clause:

The breakthrough was achieved by Burlingame and Evans, two researchers in the
university's genetic engineering lab.[14]

[edit] Passive constructions

This section needs additional citations for verification.
Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced material may be challenged and
removed. (September 2009)

In general, the passive voice is used to place focus on the grammatical patient, rather than the
agent. This properly occurs when the patient is the topic of the sentence. However, the passive
voice can also be used when the focus is on the agent.

[edit] Canonical passives

Passive constructions have a range of meanings and uses. The canonical use is to map a clause
with a direct object to a corresponding clause where the direct object has become the subject. For

John threw the ball.

Here threw is a transitive verb with John as its subject and the ball as its direct object. If we
recast the verb in the passive voice (was thrown), then the ball becomes the subject (it is
"promoted" to the subject position) and John disappears:

The ball was thrown.

The original "demoted" subject can typically be re-inserted using the preposition by.

The ball was thrown by John.

[edit] Promotion of other objects

One non-canonical use of English's passive is to promote an object other than a direct object. It is
usually possible in English to promote indirect objects as well. For example:

John gave Mary a book. Mary was given a book.

John gave Mary a book. Mary was given a book by John.

In the active form, gave is the verb; John is its subject, Mary its indirect object, and a book its
direct object. In the passive forms, the indirect object has been promoted and the direct object
has been left in place. (In "A book was given to Mary", the direct object is promoted and the
indirect object left in place. In this respect, English resembles dechticaetiative languages.)
It is also possible, in some cases, to promote the object of a preposition:

They talked about the problem. The problem was talked about.

In the passive form here, the preposition is "stranded"; that is, it is not followed by an object.

[edit] Promotion of content clauses

It is possible to promote a content clause that serves as a direct object. In this case, however, the
clause typically does not change its position in the sentence, and an expletive it takes the normal
subject position:

They say that he left. It is said that he left.

[edit] Stative passives

The passives described above are all eventive (or dynamic) passives. Stative (or static, or
resultative) passives also exist in English; rather than describing an action, they describe the
result of an action. English does not usually distinguish between the two. For example:

The window was broken.

This sentence has two different meanings, roughly the following:

[Someone] broke the window.

The window was not intact.

The former meaning represents the canonical, eventive passive; the latter, the stative passive.
(The terms eventive and stative/resultative refer to the tendencies of these forms to describe
events and resultant states, respectively. The terms can be misleading, however, as the canonical
passive of a stative verb is not a stative passive, even though it describes a state.)
Some verbs do not form stative passives. In some cases, this is because distinct adjectives exist
for this purpose, such as with the verb open:

The door was opened. [Someone] opened the door.

The door was open. The door was in the open state.

[edit] Adjectival passives

Adjectival passives are not true passives; they occur when a participial adjective (an adjective
derived from a participle) is used predicatively (see Adjective). For example:

She was relieved to find her car undamaged.

Here, relieved is an ordinary adjective, though it derives from the past participle of relieve,[16] and
that past participle may be used in canonical passives:

He was relieved of duty.

In some cases, the line between an adjectival passive and a stative passive may be unclear.

[edit] Passives without active counterparts

In a few cases, passive constructions retain all the sense of the passive voice, but do not have
immediate active counterparts. For example:

He was rumored to be a war veteran. *[Someone] rumored him to be a war veteran.

(The asterisk here denotes an ungrammatical construction.) Similarly:

It was rumored that he was a war veteran. *[Someone] rumored that he was a war

In both of these examples, the active counterpart was once possible, but has fallen out of use.

[edit] Double passives

It is possible for a verb in the passive voiceespecially an object-raising verbto take an
infinitive complement that is also in the passive voice:

The project is expected to be completed in the next year.

Commonly, either or both verbs may be moved into the active voice:

[Someone] expects the project to be completed in the next year.

[Someone] is expected to complete the project in the next year.

[Someone] expects [someone] to complete the project in the next year.

In some cases, a similar construction may occur with a verb that is not object-raising in the active

?The project will be attempted to be completed in the next year. *[Someone] will
attempt the project to be completed in the next year. [Someone] will attempt to
complete the project in the next year.

(The question mark here denotes a questionably-grammatical construction.) In this example, the
object of the infinitive has been promoted to the subject of the main verb, and both the infinitive
and the main verb have been moved to the passive voice. The American Heritage Book of
English Usage declares this unacceptable,[17] but it is nonetheless recommended in a variety of

[edit] Misapplication of the term

Occasionally, writers misapply the term passive voice to sentences that do not identify the actor.
For example, this extract from The New Yorker magazine refers to the American embezzler
Bernard Madoff; bold text identifies the mis-identified passive voice verbs:
Two sentences later, Madoff said, When I began the Ponzi scheme, I believed it would end
shortly, and I would be able to extricate myself, and my clients, from the scheme. As he read
this, he betrayed no sense of how absurd it was to use the passive voice in regard to his scheme,
as if it were a spell of bad weather that had descended on him . . . In most of the rest of the
statement, one not only heard the aggrieved passive voice, but felt the hand of a lawyer: To the
best of my recollection, my fraud began in the early nineteen-nineties.[20]
The intransitive verbs would end and began are in the active voice; however, how the speaker
uses the words subtly diverts responsibility from him.[21] In The Elements of Style, Strunk and
White mis-apply the passive voice term to several active voice constructions; Prof. Geoffrey
Pullum writes:
Of the four pairs of examples offered to show readers what to avoid and how to correct it, a
staggering three out of the four are mistaken diagnoses. At dawn the crowing of a rooster could
be heard is correctly identified as a passive clause, but the other three are all errors:

There were a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground has no sign of
the passive in it anywhere.

It was not long before she was very sorry that she had said what she had, also
contains nothing that is even reminiscent of the passive construction.

The reason that he left college was that his health became impaired, is
presumably fingered as passive because of impaired, but thats a mistake. Its an
adjective here.[22]

Passive Voice
Language Guide German + Dictionary for iPhone and iPod-Touch (made by ego4u)
Exercises on Passive

Use of Passive
Passive voice is used when the focus is on the action. It is not important or not known, however,
who or what is performing the action.
Example: My bike was stolen.
In the example above, the focus is on the fact that my bike was stolen. I do not know, however,
who did it.
Sometimes a statement in passive is more polite than active voice, as the following example
Example: A mistake was made.
In this case, I focus on the fact that a mistake was made, but I do not blame anyone (e.g. You
have made a mistake.).

Form of Passive
Subject + finite form of to be + Past Participle (3rd column of irregular verbs)

Example: A letter was written.

When rewriting active sentences in passive voice, note the following:

the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence
the finite form of the verb is changed (to be + past participle)

the subject of the active sentence becomes the object of the passive sentence (or is

Examples of Passive Level: lower intermediate


Active: Rita
Simple Present
Passive: A letter
Active: Rita
Simple Past
Passive: A letter
Active: Rita
Present Perfect
Passive: A letter
Active: Rita
Future I
Passive: A letter
Active: Rita
Passive: A letter

is written
was written
has written
has been written
will write
will be written
can write
can be written

a letter.
by Rita.
a letter.
by Rita.
a letter.
by Rita.
a letter.
by Rita.
a letter.
by Rita.

Examples of Passive Level: upper intermediate


Active: Rita
A letter
Active: Rita
Past Progressive Passive
A letter
Active: Rita
Past Perfect
A letter
Active: Rita
Future II
A letter
Active: Rita
Conditional I
A letter
Conditional II Active: Rita

is writing

a letter.

is being written

by Rita.

was writing

a letter.

was being written

by Rita.

had written

a letter.

had been written

by Rita.

will have written

a letter.

will have been written

by Rita.

would write

a letter.

would be written

by Rita.

would have written

a letter.

A letter

would have been written

by Rita.

Passive Sentences with Two Objects Level: intermediate

Rewriting an active sentence with two objects in passive voice means that one of the two objects
becomes the subject, the other one remains an object. Which object to transform into a subject
depends on what you want to put the focus on.


A letter

was written
was written

Object 1
a letter
to me
a letter

Object 2
to me.
by Rita.
by Rita.

As you can see in the examples, adding by Rita does not sound very elegant. Thats why it is
usually dropped.

Personal and Impersonal Passive

Personal Passive simply means that the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the
passive sentence. So every verb that needs an object (transitive verb) can form a personal
Example: They build houses. Houses are built.
Verbs without an object (intransitive verb) normally cannot form a personal passive sentence (as
there is no object that can become the subject of the passive sentence). If you want to use an
intransitive verb in passive voice, you need an impersonal construction therefore this passive is
called Impersonal Passive.
Example: he says it is said
Impersonal Passive is not as common in English as in some other languages (e.g. German,
Latin). In English, Impersonal Passive is only possible with verbs of perception (e. g. say, think,
Example: They say that women live longer than men. It is said that women live longer than
Although Impersonal Passive is possible here, Personal Passive is more common.
Example: They say that women live longer than men. Women are said to live longer than men.

The subject of the subordinate clause (women) goes to the beginning of the sentence; the verb of
perception is put into passive voice. The rest of the sentence is added using an infinitive
construction with 'to' (certain auxiliary verbs and that are dropped).
Sometimes the term Personal Passive is used in English lessons if the indirect object of an active
sentence is to become the subject of the passive sentence.

Exercises on Passive (Form)

Exercise on Passive with Simple Present Level: lower intermediate

Exercise on Passive with Simple Past Level: lower intermediate

Exercise on Passive with Present Perfect Level: lower intermediate

Exercise on Passive with Future I Level: lower intermediate

Exercises on Passive (Active Passive)

Exercise on Passive with Simple Present Level: lower intermediate

Exercise on Passive with Simple Past Level: lower intermediate

Exercise on Passive with Present Perfect Level: lower intermediate

Exercise on Passive with Future I Level: lower intermediate

Exercise on Passive with Auxiliary Verbs Level: lower intermediate

Mixed Exercise on Passive with Passive Level: lower intermediate

Sentences with 2 Objects (Indirect Object, Personal Passive) Level: intermediate


Sentences with 2 Objects (Direct Object) Level: intermediate

Personal Passive (verbs of perception) Level: intermediate

Exercise on Passive with Present Progressive Level: upper intermediate

Exercise on Passive with Past Progressive Level: upper intermediate

Exercise on Passive with Past Perfect Level: upper intermediate

Exercise on Passive with Future II Level: upper intermediate

Exercise on Passive with Conditional I Level: upper intermediate

Exercise on Passive with Conditional II Level: upper intermediate


Exercises on Passive (Active or Passive)

Exercise on Simple Present Level: lower intermediate

Exercise on Simple Past Level: lower intermediate

Exercise on Present Perfect Level: lower intermediate

Exercise on Future I with will Level: lower intermediate

Exercise The Statue of Liberty Level: intermediate

Exercise Portal Dolmen Level: intermediate

Summary The Fellowship of the Ring, part 2, part 3 Level: intermediate


Grammar in Texts

Show Passive Voice in The Canterville Ghost Level: lower intermediate

Grammar Exercise on Washington, DC Level: lower intermediate

Show Passive Voice in History of Snowboarding Level: upper intermediate

Passive Voice
Kategori: Grammar - Dibaca: 13836 kali
Kalimat aktif merupakan kalimat yang subjek kalimatnya adalah pelaku sebuah tindakan,
sedangkan kalimat pasif adalah kalimat yang subjeknya bukan pelaku suatu tindakan. Si subjek
adalah si penerima akibat dari sebuah tindakan.
Bandingkan kalimat-kalimat berikut:
Aktif : Susi mengetik surat ini kemarin

Pasif : Surat ini diketik oleh Susi kemarin

Aktif : Kucingku membunuh seekor tikus

Pasif : Seekor tikus dibunuh oleh kucingku

Gunakan bentuk pasif jika pelaku tindakan tidak begitu penting.
Menara ini dibangun tahun 1955
Kalau kita perlu menyebut siapa pelaku suatu tindakan, gunakan kata oleh (by)
Menara ini telah dibangun oleh Pemerintah Daerah pada tahun 1955
Rumus umum untuk membentuk suatu kalimat Pasif
Aktif : S + Verb (Kata Kerja) + Objek + dll
Pasif : Objek + to be + Verb 3 (Kata Kerja Bentuk III) ( + by subjek) + dll
To be yang digunakan
1. Present : is, am, are
2. Past : was, were
3. Perfect : been (di depan have, has, atau had)
4. Future : be (setelah modals)
5. Continuous : being (di depan salah satu dari 7 to be di atas)
Hal-hal yang perlu diketahui dan diingat
1. Untuk menyatakan suatu kalimat dalam bentuk pasif, tenses tidak berubah. Tenses harus
sama dengan kalau kita menyatakannya dalam bentuk aktif. Yang berubah hanya kata
2. Kata kerja yang tidak memiliki objek (Kata Kerja Intransitif) tidak dapat diubah menjadi
kalimat pasif, seperti, menangis, mendidih, terbit, dll.
Contoh-contoh kalimat aktif dan pasif
1. Jack sings a song (active)
2. A song is sung by Jack (Passive)
1. Jack sang a song yesterday (active)
2. A song was sung by Jack yesterday (passive)
1. Jack has sung a song (active)

2. A song has been sung by Jack (passive)

1. Jack will sing a song (active)
2. A song will be sung by Jack (passive)
1. Jack is singing a song (active)
2. A song is being sung by Jack (passive)
1. Jack can sing a song (active)
2. A song can be sung by Jack (passive)

Beberapa Bentuk Kalimat Passive

1) Passive Imperative Sentence
Let + objek + be + Kata Kerja Bentuk III
Help the poor (active)
Let the poor be helped (passive)
2) Passive Infinitive: It is/was time
It is/was time for + objek + to be + kata kerja III
It is time to send the letter (active)
It is time for the letter to be sent (passive)
3) Negative Passive Imperative Sentence
Subjek + be + Kata kerja III + not to + infinitive
(kata kerja III yang sering digunakan adalah: advised, asked, begged, commanded, requested)
Dont wait for me (active)
You are advised not to wait for me (passive)
4) Passive Sentence with Verbs of Perception
Subjek + be + adjectives + when + subjek + be + kata kerja III

(kata kerja yang digunakan adalah: taste, smell, feel)

This food tastes delicious (active)
This food is delicious when it is tasted (passive)
5) Passive Sentence with Certain Verbs followed by that-clause
Kata kerja yang digunakan adalah: accept, admit, agree, assume, believe, decide, expect, find
out, intend, plan, point out, presume, prove, regret, report, say, think, understand.
We regretted that the principal had to resign from office (active)
It was regretted that the principal had to resign from office (passive)
6) Passive Sentence with Nouns or Adjectives as Complements
I consider her very pretty (active)
She is considered very pretty (passive)
7) Passive Sentence with two objects
He gave me a book (active)
A book was given to me by him (passive 1)

I was given a book by him (passive 2)

8) Passive Sentence with Gerund Verbs

The teacher enjoyed teaching the students (active)
The students enjoyed being taught by the teacher (passive)
9) Agent consisting long expression at the end of sentence
Dalam kalimat pasif, jika pelaku terdiri dari ekspresi yang panjang, sebaiknya subjek tersebut
ditempatkan di akhir kalimat setelah by.
We were all surprised by her sudden announcement to get married
I was confused by his plan to stop the ongoing project and begin a new one.
10) Passive Sentence with unique verbs
Kata kerja yang digunakan adalah: require, deserve, need
This wall needs to be painted (sama dengan)
This wall needs painting